War: what is it good for? Quite a bit…

I’ve often thought of the war in Iraq as more of a campaign in a broader war than a war in and of itself. The War on Terror is being fought on many fronts, and not all of them are “hot wars” like those waged in Iraq and Afghanistan. While those places get all the attention, many other battles have been quietly fought — and won — against the threat of terrorism.

1) Libya. Libya has been an “outlaw nation” for decades. Qadaffi has long been a major friend, supporter, and sponsor of terrorism, and sought weapons of mass destruction. But suddenly last year Libya renounced its entire WMD program, turned everything they had developed so far over to the United States, acknowledged several past actions, and started providing information on terrorists. This didn’t happen because Qadaffi suddenly had an attack of conscience or a religious conversion — he saw what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq, and wanted to make sure that he wasn’t the next target.

2) Egypt. This weekend, Egypt’s strongman Mubarak announced that soon they would be having elections for president, and he would allow other candidates to run against him.

3) Lebanon. Lebanon has been repeatedly raped by occupying powers — Syria, Palestinians, and even Israel, when they got fed up with being attacked by Syrians and Palestinians from Lebanon. After the recent assassination of their former president (correction, courtesy Pennywit: Prime Minister), the Lebanese are finally standing up for themselves and demanding that the Syrians get the hell out — and the Syrians are listening. And then today the entire Syrian-picked government resigns. Someone’s reading the writing on the wall.

4) Syria. Syria has long been the quietest troublemakers in the region. They’ve been major sponsors of terrorist organizations, they’ve occupied Lebanon for decades, they gave shelter to many of Saddam’s minions, they’ve trained and supplied many of the “insurgents” in Iraq. But recently they’ve announced that they’re going to start pulling out of Lebanon. Further, this weekend they turned over 30 Iraqi Baathist leaders (including Saddam’s half-brother) to the new Iraqi government. Syrian leader Bashar Assad (or, as Meryl Yourish so eloquently dubbed him, “the dorktator“), like Qadaffi before him, can feel the bullseye on his back, and wants to get it off him as quickly as possible.

5) Iraq. There’s plenty of news around about Iraq, so I’m not going to repeat it here. I’m just going to bring up one point.

In the recent elections in Iraq, there was no clear winner. All three factions had good showings, with the Shiites doing the best — but none of them has the numbers to put together a government on their own. So they’re trying to settle the matter and assemble a government.

And they’re doing it by TALKING. No military coups, no assassinations, no attempts to rally the mobs. They’re NEGOTIATING the matter, like so many other democracies. That is old hat to the West, but completely unprecented in the Arab/Muslim world.

6. Palestine. Yes, there’s been another turn of the “Palestinians declare truce / Israel makes concessions / Palestinians kill Israelis / Israel hits back / world blames Israel for ‘sabotaging the peace process'” cycle. But this time was a little different. The Palestinians (finally free of the curse of Yassir Arafat), and the Authority actually condemned it and promised action for a change. Israel is going to the United Nations for a resolution condemning the bombing and a demand that the Authority dismantle the terrorist organizations, holding its own retaliation in abeyance. There’s barely a chance in hell of it passing, but with any luck it’ll make a lot of people squirm.

7. The United Nations. The United Nations has been staunchly critical of the United States from about September 12, 2001 onward. (Well, actually, a lot longer than that, but that’s a convenient landmark, and I’m making a point here.) But there’s been a slight modification of their traditional knee-jerk anti-Americanism. They’ve been trying to take credit for both the Iraqi elections and the tsunami relief in southeast Asia — both actions where the United States did the lion’s share of heavy lifting. While it’s still contemptible behavior by the UN, the mere fact that they’re trying to steal the credit for it is a tacit admission that the achievement was a good thing.

I have absolutely no desire nor intention of making light of the U.S. and Iraqi casualties that are happening every day. But we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture. And the big picture is that this fight in Iraq is winning us other struggles around the world. And by “us,” I don’t mean just us Americans.

J.

Bonfire of the Vanities - Week 87
A Greater Objective

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